When Tilda Swinton is cast in just about any film, you can be rest assured that you’re in for a great performance. She has her fair share of duds, Constantine and The Dead Don’t Die being the most notable of those, but even there she has interesting roles that bring about a great range. Orlando does the same for her career, but its consistencies as a film on the whole are meritable. Finally, a film that gets the balance between the talent of Swinton and the success of a strong and engaging story as perfect as possible.
For the most part, Orlando is a thoroughly enjoyable film. Swinton’s leading performance as the eponymous character is a well-rounded role. The strengths of her unique performing style are on full display here. With cocky glances toward the camera, consistently addressing the audience under the talented eye of director Sally Potter. Potter’s direction and Swinton’s performance work hand in hand throughout the film. On the whole, the most engaging aspect of Orlando is in fact the direction. It’s no small feat to feature so many different parts of history, and in such detail, it becomes a real treat to lose yourself in the many different periods the film picks apart.
Somehow the novelty of the storyline and chirpy awkwardness of the characters throughout make for a resoundingly thrilling film. A drama that follows the life of Orlando, who cannot die. We work our way through the many different centuries that occupy the time of our titular hero. A somewhat forgettable supporting cast litter the many decades we bear witness to, and for the most part their performances are resoundingly harmless. Completely uneventful and lacking the impact of Swinton’s powerhouse role, but strong enough to hold their own and bolster her leading work.
Aside from the leading performance and the strengths of the direction, Orlando doesn’t provide much else. As far as the storyline goes, it follows a somewhat similar format to other period pieces. If you took away the never-ageing character then Orlando could easily be mistaken for yet another regular product of the genre. Nothing sticks out as all that memorable, and while the costume designs are certainly a marvellous addition, they feel far too similar to that of irredeemably boring and generally mediocre films that linger around the edges of the same genre.
Still, Orlando certainly has its moments, and the eventual culmination of this story is such a frankly understated and enjoyable end. Potter and Swinton work together with such a feverish tenacity for their craft and it certainly shows when they put their best work together. An excellent piece of work, one that leaves me wanting a lot more out of a product that only just manages to separate itself from the negative aspects of the period piece genre thanks to a thoroughly intriguing storyline. Orlando is well worth the watch, solely for its puzzling story and the exceptional leading performance Swinton brings to the table.